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Mr. Millionaire
While I’m moving I’ll be running old tortured-psyche fiction pieces. This one was written in August of 2005, shortly after the first Summer Founders Program ended.
I kiss my girlfriend goodbye before walking down the front steps into
the waiting cab. We whir towards the airport. I’ve done this so many
times that the whole act becomes some sort of choreographed dance:
step and lift and pull the suitcase, slam the car door and run towards
the airport. Wave my card at security and take the express lane.
Onboard the plane, I grab my business class seat and push the seat all
the way back, just to remember how it feels. I try to get some sleep
but all too soon we’re there. I grab my bag and head to pick up my
rental car. I toss my luggage in and pretty soon I’m speeding down the
beautiful California road.
‘Ah, Mr. Delboy,’ says the receptionist. ‘We’ve been expecting you.’
She leads me to a conference room. I take a seat at the tip of the
long table, which stretches all the way down the room, before
stopping at a mahogany bookcase whose shelves remain empty. A
fluorescent light gives everything that yellow glow. Three older men
sit on my left, three older men sit on my right. ‘Let’s get down to
business, Mr. Delboy,’ says the first man on my left. ‘Please, call me
Jules,’ I say. ‘We’ve talked it over and we’re willing to offer three
million.’
I lean back in my chair and laugh. ‘Three million?’ I say, turning
serious. ‘Please, I could find three million in my fucking couch.
Don’t waste my time with this stuff.’ I begin to get up. ‘No, wait,’
cries the first man on the right. ‘Will you take five?’ I sit back
down again. ‘Ten,’ I say. ‘Five and a half,’ he says. ‘Ten,’ I say.
‘We’ll have to discuss it.’
Back in Massachusetts, I head over to visit my friend Lou. Also a
programmer, he was laid off six months ago by a local enterprise
consulting company. Judging by the mounting pile of beer bottles, he’s
had a rough time of it since. He plops down in the couch,
absent-mindedly flicking on and off the TV. FOX News pops on. ‘God, I
hate these twits,’ he says. ‘And the spineless Dems are no better,’ he
adds. ‘I recently got this fancy-schmancy direct mail survey from them
asking what I thought the most important political issue was. There
were all the usual options: Iraq war, social security, health care,
outsourcing — but what about the poor, man? What about those people
whose lives really suck? They keep trying to railroad politics into
this safe little issue-oriented bullshit. When is real change going to
happen?’
‘So, uh, my company is going well,’ I say, trying to change the
subject. ‘Yeah?’ he says disinterestedly. ‘Yeah, we got offered five
but I’m trying to push them to ten.’ ‘Thousand?’ he says. ‘Million,’ I
say. ‘Fuck, man,’ he says, ‘a million dollars? You have any idea how
many mouths you can feed with that?’ ‘Hey man, don’t try and pull that
hippy bullshit on me, okay? I’m as liberal as anybody. I donate money
to MoveOn.org, I readNickel and Dimed, I’m totally with you on that
stuff.’
‘Shit, Jules, you don’t even know what that stuff is. Do you even live
in the same world as these people? Five million dollars? Can you even
think of what that kind of money means? I mean, sure, to you it means
another jet so you can go galavanting around the world but do you ever
think about the people that you’re flying over?’ ‘Shut up man, I’ve
got serious stuff to worry about, I don’t need to hear your whining.’
I look over towards the overflowing mountain of beer bottles. ‘Get
some help,’ I say and walk out.
I’m walking through Harvard Square when my cell phone rings. ‘Jules here,’
I say. ‘Alright man, we’ve discussed it and we’re willing to give you
9 and a half.’ ‘With what vesting?’ I say. ‘5 in cash, 4 and a half at
three years quarterly.’ ‘Three years?’ I say. ‘How about two?’ ‘Deal,’
they say. ‘Deal,’ I say. ‘We’ll fax over the papers tomorrow.’ I snap
the phone shut and keep on walking. It’s a beautiful day in Cambridge.
The sun streams down from overhead, casting a special glow on the
minstrels who inhabit the Square and making the colors pop on the
tight-fitting tanktops the coeds wear. Jugglers are tossing rings on
my right. ‘Change please?’ calls a hunched over black man on my left,
with his battered Starbucks cup extended. I keep on walking but he
leaves his perch and starts following me.
‘Hey man, can you spare some change? Anything? Please, I need to eat,’
he says. I keep walking, but I can’t shake him. He gets in front of
me, starts pushing up in my face. ‘Hey man, I see what you’re wearing.
Look here — I got myself a total of three bucks, fifty-seven cents.
What do you have?’ ‘Huh?’ I say. ‘How much money do you have?’ I stop
walking for a second. The man looks up in my face. ‘I said I got three
bucks and how much do you have?’ he repeats. ‘Five,’ I stammer, and
then it hits me. I crumple to the ground and start sobbing.
‘I can’t take it,’ I sob. ‘I’m not cut out for this world. I don’t
want to be in this world. I don’t want to be this person. I don’t want
to beme.’ I curl into a ball and start sobbing.
The man with the Starbucks cup backs away and heads back to his perch.
And the rest of the sidewalk traffic just keeps on moving, ignoring
the sobbing millionaire, lying in the middle of the street.
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November  6, 2006